"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global influence through its administration of the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s. In recent years, shared concerns over Sunni Islamist extremist terrorism and Iranian government policies have provided some renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation. Political upheaval and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa appear to be straining bilateral ties, but the full effect has yet to be determined. [...] Current U.S. policy seeks to coordinate with Saudi leaders on regional issues and help them respond to domestic economic and security challenges. Time will tell whether U.S. initiatives and, more importantly, Saudi leaders' decisions will ensure stability. Shared security challenges have long defined U.S.-Saudi relations, and questions about Saudi domestic and foreign policy may become more pertinent as leadership changes occur in the kingdom and as conflicts and competition continue in the Middle East region. Saudi leaders' assertiveness in confronting perceived threats and the effects of their sharpening tensions with Iran could affect U.S. security interests, including with regard to Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. Congress may examine these developments when considering the scope, terms, and merits of ongoing U.S.-Saudi partnership, proposed arms sales, and security commitments."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33533
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html